On April 24, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced during a stakeholder teleconference that its Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program (“ASVVP”) will be expanding to include L-1 petitions
On April 24, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced during a stakeholder teleconference that its Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program (“ASVVP”) will be expanding to include L-1 petitions. Previously in 2013, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) recommended the implementation of site visits before extending L-1 “new office” petitions with the aim of reducing fraud and abuse.
Importantly, during the recent stakeholder teleconference, USCIS indicated that it is taking steps beyond the OIG’s recommendation, including conducting random, unannounced L-1 site visits, and that these site visits will not be limited to L-1 “new office” extensions. USCIS further stated the L-1 site visits are being implemented in phases, beginning with L-1A extensions and later expanding to other L-1A and L-1B applications. No explicit start date for the L-1 site visits was given, but USCIS suggested the roll out of the initial phase will be in the near future. Therefore, all employers with employees in the L-1 classification should begin preparing for these new site visits and reviewing their L-1 cases for changes in job duties and location.
Immigration officers participating in site visits cannot revoke or readjudicate immigration benefits, but their findings can be forwarded to the appropriate USCIS service center, which may issue a Notice of Intent to Revoke if fraud is suspected. Accordingly, while participation in a site visit is completely voluntary and can be terminated at any time, employers may wish to cooperate to avoid unnecessary allegations of fraud.
Should an immigration officer approach your company, we recommend that you contact our office immediately. We will seek to coordinate with the immigration officer, so that we may be present during the site visit. USCIS will allow legal counsel to be present, but immigration officers are not required to wait until their arrival before proceeding. If you decide to move forward with a site visit without counsel present, we recommend that you request to see the immigration officer’s identification and write down the name and contact information, so that our office can help provide any additional documentation that is requested.
Prior experience with the ASVVP in the H-1B classification suggests that immigration officers will likely seek to verify the following information:
- Does the facility visually appear to be that of the organization and suggest the presence of a legitimate organization?
- Does the organization have knowledge of the beneficiary and the petition filed on behalf of the beneficiary?
- Is the beneficiary working for the organization and able to speak to the immigration officer?
- Is the beneficiary knowledgeable, cooperative, and forthcoming with questions posed?
- Is the beneficiary being paid the salary and performing the duties indicated in the petition?
However, as there are important legal differences between the L-1 and H-1B classifications, there will likely be new and unique challenges for immigration officers conducting L-1 site visits. Our office is available to assist your company navigate these new developments in the L-1 classification. If you have questions or concerns about preparing for a possible site visit, please do not hesitate to contact us.